In March, Former Director of National Intelligence Clapper said during a March 5 Meet the Press interview that he had not seen any evidence of potential collusion through the time he left office on Jan. 20.
“There was no evidence whatsoever, at the time, of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” said Clapper.
Just like our Russia blog trolls who post comments on this blog, later that month, Trump tweeted about Clapper’s March statement:
Trump again tweeted last week:
James Clapper finally had enough of Trump’s mischaracterizaton and misuse of his statement and set the record straight last week. James Clapper doesn’t know if there was collusion between Trump and Russia:
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he does not know if there was collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia and that he was not privy to the details of the counterintelligence investigation.
“I don’t know if there was collusion or not,” Clapper said during an interview Friday with MSNBC. “I don’t know if there was evidence of collusion or not, nor should I have.”
Clapper said it would have been former FBI Director James Comey’s discretion to notify him of any evidence of collusion and said it was his practice to always “defer” to the director.
“It’s not surprising or abnormal that I would not have known about the investigation, or more importantly the content of that investigation,” Clapper said.
When he testified last Monday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, along with ousted Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, Clapper also appeared to cast doubt on the president’s interpretation of his comments when he said he “was not aware of the counterintelligence investigation Director Comey first referred to during his testimony before the House intelligence committee on March 20th.”
This talking point — that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said there was “no evidence” of Trump campaign-Russia collusion — was debunked during a Senate hearing on Monday featuring testimony from Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Trump should’ve known better by Friday.
Friday afternoon, MSNBC had Clapper on to explain, once and for all, why Trump’s tweet is dishonest.
The long and short of it is that when Clapper said he wasn’t aware of evidence of collusion during a March 5 Meet the Press interview, he didn’t mean that such evidence doesn’t exit — he simply wasn’t looped in about the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation, which unbeknownst to Clapper has been going on since July 2016. (Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell also seemed to misinterpret Clapper’s remark in public comments he made in late March.)
“My practice during the six and a half years that I was at the DNI was always to defer to the director of the FBI — be it Director Bob Mueller or Director James Comey — on whether, when, and what to tell me about a counterintelligence investigation,” Clapper said. “So it is not surprising or abnormal that I would not have known about the investigation or even more important, the content of that investigation. So I don’t know if there was collusion or not, I don’t know if there is evidence of collusion or not, nor should I have in this particular context.”
Those comments echo what Clapper said during his testimony on Monday.
“During my tenure as DNI, it was my practice to defer to the FBI director, both Director Mueller and then subsequently Director Comey, on whether, when and to what extent they would inform me about such investigations,” Clapper told senators. “This stems from the unique position of the FBI, which straddles both intelligence and law enforcement. And as a consequence, I was not aware of the counterintelligence investigation Director Comey first referred to during his testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee for Intelligence on the 20th of March, and that comports with my public statements.”
Nonetheless, the White House — just like our Russia blog trolls — has continued to use Clapper’s remark as a talking point even after his clarification. The morning after Clapper’s testimony and Comey’s firing, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders grossly misrepresented Clapper’s words during an interview on Morning Joe.
Pushed about how Trump believes he can possibly get away with firing FBI Director James Comey amid an active FBI investigation, Huckabee Sanders said, “I hope that the Senate completes [their investigation] so that they can come to the same conclusion that everyone else has, and that every person has said, whether it’s been [former Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper or others, that there is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”
Not only did Huckabee Sanders mischaracterize what Clapper said, she also mischaracterized Comey, who never said there is no evidence of collusion. During the March 20 House hearing where he confirmed the Trump campaign is the subject of a counterintelligence investigation, Comey said, “I’ve been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.”
“That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” Comey added.
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James Clapper has never “shifted his story.” Clapper has repeatedly said he’s not aware of any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but that’s because he never has been privy to the FBI’s counterintelligence probe.
Clapper’s comments all along have been consistent with the possibility that evidence of collusion exists, but he simply isn’t aware of it.
On Sunday, James Clapper doubled-down on his disgust with Donald Trump, saying US institutions are ‘under assault’ from Trump:
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Sunday that he thinks US institutions are under assault from President Donald Trump.
“I think in many ways our institutions are under assault both externally — and that’s the big news here is the Russian interference in our election system — and I think as well our institutions are under assault internally,” Clapper told anchor Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Pressed if he meant US institutions were under assault internally from the President, Clapper responded, “Exactly.”
“The founding fathers, in their genius, created a system of three co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances,” Clapper said. “I feel as though that is under assault and is eroding.”
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Clapper also said Sunday that the President and the White House are wrong to cite Clapper’s previous Senate testimony on the questions about alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia as proof that no such collusion exists, emphasizing that no one should portray his comments as “exculpatory” — something Trump has done repeatedly on Twitter.
“The bottom line is I don’t know if there was collusion, political collusion,” Clapper told Tapper. “I don’t know of any evidence to it. So I can’t refute it, and I can’t confirm it.“
NB: To our Russia blog trolls who have repeatedly mischaracterized James Clapper’s statement in comments on this blog, James Clapper’s message to you would be to “go fuck yourself.”